by Lisa Romeo
This is how it would be, surely: Five years after graduating on a hot July night, I’d return to the Stonecoast summer residency for a visit. I’d chat up alumni, swapping stories about our fabulous or lousy agents, latest book deal (surely we’d all be on book number two, at least). We’d compare who’s on a tenure track, who’s stuck in adjunct purgatory. We’d brag (modestly) about our multiple impending publications in top tier journals or major media outlets. We’d regale faculty with success stories. Awards. Grants. Offers. Options. Or maybe not. Not because we weren’t all successful in whatever corner of the literary world we’d chosen to occupy (we would be! we are!)—but we might just get smashing drunk and moan about how we miss graduate school with its immovable deadlines and objective productivity expectations and the smell of authorship just strong enough to pull us along and just weak enough that we needn’t fret about it—yet.
This is how it is: Five years after finishing my MFA program in creative nonfiction, I don’t make the drive to Maine, ostensibly because it conflicts with our family vacation. But I haven’t made the drive any other year either, partly because I fear standing around the Stone House—in my memory a magical place where my dreams still live, undisturbed, and where my confidence partially remains, stubbornly lodged—and sullying it with halting strained conversation about what I think of as, I don’t know, a failure to thrive. Because I can’t talk about an agent, a book deal, a secure teaching appointment, top literary journals, major awards, and I worry that if these are the status updates I’d have to spew at a Stonecoast gathering, I’d come up blank.
Oh, I’ve done things. Published stuff, taught, won, judged, jumped genres, edited, ghostwrote. Yet when I think about five years gone since my time at Stonecoast ended, I’m filled with—not regret exactly, but a yawning awareness of what’s not there.
photo courtesy of Helen Peppe.